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Friday, October 24, 2008

Two-handled tennis racquet developed in US

A bizarre two-handled racquet with a fork-like grip has been developed for tennis.
Tennis playing brothers Brian and Dann Battistone and the double-headed racquet
Brothers Dann and Brian Battistone play with the innovative creations in competition Photo: Wenn

The racquet has two handles positioned at a right-angle to the head, allowing players to play two-handed open-stance forehand shots from both sides.

Its use is being permitted but it has raised eyebrows in the traditional sport.

Two American brothers, Dann and Brian Battistone, play with the innovative creations in competition.

One of them uses a volleyball-style jump serve, switching the racket from hand to hand mid-leap.

However, the racquet brothers take an International Tennis Federation (ITF) certificate to every game they play, proving that the racket, named 'The Natural,' is match-legal.

"We knew some people would be against the racket," said Brian, 29, from Las Vegas. "There's a lot of tradition in tennis so this is quite radical."

The designer of the racket, Lionel Burt, said that it had been easy to convince the ITF to approve the racket: "Their basic position is, 'If you can beat Roger Federer with a snow shovel of that dimension, go ahead and do it."

The double-hitter has already brought the brothers success. They had previously languished in the 800s in the world rankings and Brian had left tennis in 2000 to serve a mission for his Mormon faith. They have now risen to 206th and 207th in the doubles rankings using the racket, even beating world doubles number 11 pair Lukas Dlouhy and partner Tomas Zib.

Tennis playing brothers Brian and Dann Battistone and the double-headed racquet

Burt says that the racket took him 18 years to develop, and was inspired by his permanent back problems caused by always playing on one side. However, it is not the first time a racket of this type has been used and there are rumours linking 'The Natural' to a racket designed by a Florida-based mechanical engineer and over-50s player called Elie Boukheir.

Around five years ago, the 'Logix' racket was also developed, a two-handled racket where the second handle was used as a counterweight. The head was tilted at a 20 degree angle to the handle, supposedly allowing the player to hit a topspin shot by moving the racket parallel to the ground.

The most famous tilted-head rackets were designed by tennis company Snauwaert in the 1980s and were endorsed by former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, a byword for tennis controversy. The Snauwaert rackets never caught on, but Burt says that now they have the financial backing and the players to make it happen.